A little more than a year ago, I opened the box containing the pieces of the 1/2 inch scale Fairfield and decided to give it a whirl.
A lot has happened in the year. My mom broke her hip and is still dealing with that. I started self- publishing my backlist books to which I had the rights and discovered a whole new energy in writing and publishing. One of my historical romances hit New York Times. And I built and finished the Fairfield.
Below I’ll share some tips that got me through the process.
Want to say before I start that this is a terrific house. Its design (two rooms deep), gives it a more realistic appearance–I love looking through doors into rooms beyond. The depth and detail are just wonderful. Kudos to whoever came up with the original design.
Notes on glue and paint:
For this house, I used the Ultimate Crafter’s Pick glue to glue the structure together; Yes paste for wallpaper; white glue for shingles; and tacky glue for other things. Spackling and wood filler are good to have on hand.
Stain: Minwax stain pens.
Exterior wall paint: Glidden eggshell interior paint (color: Smooth Stone)
Paint for everything else: Ceramcoat, Americana, and other brands of acrylic craft paint.
For porch railings and window trim: PrismColor stain markers in various colors.
1. Before punching out the main house pieces, go through the sheets with the guide in the instruction book and label the house parts in pencil.
2. Cut out all the major house parts–foundation, two floors, outside walls, inside walls, tower walls (I saved the roof parts for later).
3. Get out a big roll of masking tape and tape the house together. The instructions have a few photos, and there are photos on the Internet, but nothing is like having the house in 3D in your space.
4. Learn how the walls will be put together, and where everything goes. This also helps you decide whether to use the kit as is or how you’ll change it.
I chose to leave out most of the interior walls on the back/tower side (bathroom wall, staircase walls, interior tower wall). I wanted a more open floorplan.
On the other hand, I added walls to the attic rooms so I could have more rooms to furnish.
I chose to not use the “built-in” staircase that comes with the kit. Instead I purchased two Houseworks 1/2-inch scale staircase kits, turned the staircases around, and cut a hole in the third floor so my staircases could go all the way to the top of the house.
5. Untape. Finish all the walls, inside and out, plus the floors and ceilings, before gluing the house together. Much easier to finish everything when it’s lying flat.
6. Finish ceilings first. If you’re going to use chandeliers, buy or make the fixtures. Once the ceilings are finished, drill holes for the chandeliers and tape the wires across the unfinished side of the floor above. I chose to then run the wires down the fireplaces and out the bottom of the house, but whatever works (I used round wire, rather than tape wire, which will be different).
7. The flooring on the next floor up then hides the wiring.
8. In the case of the parquet floor, I put it together on a piece of thin cardboard then glued the cardboard onto the floor when all was done.
9. I periodically retaped the house together as I went to make sure everything was where I thought it was.
10. As tempting as it was to put the staircases in place right away, I left them out until almost the last thing. I knew that as I reached into the house and fixed things, I’d knock over the staircases. I would dry fit them from time to time to help see where they’d fall in the grand scheme of things.
11. Were I to do this again, I’d add all the window trim before the walls are glued in place. By the time I came to the window trim section of the instructions, it was very difficult to put my big hands into the small spaces. I would also trim out the doors and the arches.
12. To trim inside the arches of the bay windows and kitchen and living room doors (covering the raw edges), I stained strips of wood veneer and bent them around the arches, trimming as I went. That was fun. (Read, frustrating). But it came out well.
13 The large living room door arch only has one piece of trim. Because both sides show in my house, I used the arch as a template to make another one out of card (two, because I screwed up the first one). You can see how it turned out here.
14. Tape the roof on to see how the pieces go and fit. Because I’d modified the tower room to be open rather than enclosed all the way, I had to change the front roof piece a little, and I had to add side pieces to the tower (or else it would be an open space).
You can see how the tower walls now slant back to the roof, instead of the tower standing alone as in the pic of the original house. I cut the pieces to fit, then used spackling and paint to hide the seams. (Tower roof is crooked because it’s not glued on yet).
15. To me, it was easier to buy pre-made windows for the lower part of the house. I tried to use the kit windows, but I just couldn’t make them look nice. The third floor windows and tower windows came out well, but the others defeated me!
16. Sand, sand, sand. The wood is splintery. Sanding with 150, then 220, then a very fine wet/dry sandpaper smoothed it out pretty well. Wherever I applied Minwax (or other penetrating) stain, then lightly sanded when dry, the wood came out smooth as a baby’s bum. (I’m American, but I love that term).
For painted parts, I found that giving the wood two coats of paint (sanding between each coat), then one coat of gloss varnish, the another coat of paint (again sanding), and a final coat of varnish came out well. Took time–this is part of the reason it was a year to build this house!–but worth the effort.
I sealed walls with stain or paint before I glued on wallpaper as well.
I’m mostly done now except for furnishing and the final details. I feel like I’ve been baptized by fire, but I’m now more confident whenever I look at the other Greenleaf kits sitting in my dollhouse room. Not that I’ve opened any more boxes!
I did my best to add the category “Fairfield” or “Fairfield half-inch” so if you click on that category all my posts on this house should come up.
I have many other photos of this house, so if there’s an angle you want to see, feel free to ask me. Plus, I still have the house and a camera, so I can take a photo if I don’t already have one in the stash.
To those also building this house–good luck!